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STRICTURES 



ON 



MR. BEECHAMS ESSAY 



ON THE 



CONSTITUTION 



OF 



WESLEYAN METHODISM. 



SECOND EDITION. 



LONDON : 
F. WESTLEY and A. H. DAVIS, 

STATIONERS' COURT; 

Sold l.y Wilis, », Bridge Street, Sooth wark ; Harding, Newgale 

Street ; and Muoorridoe, 36, Borough. Also by Barr, Leeds; 

Marples, — & Walusley, Liverpool ; Pearce, Sheffield ; 

Cooper, Birmingham ; and all other Booksellers. 

1830. 



STRICTURES, 

Sec. 



The avowed object of this writer is to " vin- 
dicate Methodism," not in its original state, as 
constituted by Mr. Wesley, but " in its present 
form," with all its recent modifications and im- 
provements ; its essential and fundamental princi- 
ple being invariably, That all the societies in that 
connection are and were originally placed under 
the supreme controul of Conference ; that all the 
laws and regulations for the government of the 
whole body emanate from that source, and that 
the people have no independent rights, or rights of 
any kind, but what are conceded by authority of 
Conference. — This, Mr. Beecham assures us, is the 
very stratum of Methodism. 

In proof of this he appeals to the minutes of 
Conference in L7G3, which determine that the local 
assemblies have " no directing or controuling power 
in spiritual affairs, for they are placed exclusively 
in the hands of the circuit preachers. A leaders' 
meeting have no voice in admitting or excluding a 
member of society, or one of their own fraternity ; 
neither can they interfere in the appointment or re- 
moval of stewards or any other officer, or have any 
share in the management of public worship ; all 
these are vested in the superintendent by authority 
of conference." Instead of concealing the prostrate 
condition of methodism, this dutiful son, not asham- 
ed of its nakedness, proceeds to inform us that so 
far from the local officers being allowed to exercise 
any degree of authority, " the leaders themselves 
were directed to sit in silence (in awful silence no 
doubt) on their assembling together, until the 
preacher entered the room ; and during the meeting 
they were not allowed to speak a single word, ex- 
cept in answer to a question from the preacher or 
steward." 



In the conference of 1771 it was ordained, " that 
a leader has authority only to meet his class, and 
receive their contributions ; that an assembly of 
leaders are only to show their class papers to the 
preachers, and deliver the money collected to the 
stewards. They have no authority to restrain an 
irregular preacher, to displace a leader, or expel 
any one from society ; all these things are confided 
to the assistant preacher. They are not permitted 
to regulate the temporal or spiritual concerns of the 
society, neither the one nor the other." A pretty 
dilemma for the primitive methodists ! Neverthe- 
less, though they had nothing to do with the laws 
but to obey them, they were to have the peculiar 
privilege of providing all the funds ; and if they 
could but furnish the money, wisdom would else- 
where be found to direct its application. 

It was impossible that things could long continue 
in such a state, without producing great dissatis- 
faction ; for however willing the people might be to 
submit to the management of Mr. Wesley and those 
immediately about him, it would be far otherwise 
when the government passed into other hands. A 
system which deprived them of all their rights, and 
transferred them to a spiritual aristocrasy, could 
have no claim to their admiration; sooner or later 
it would provoke enquiry, if not a feeling of resent- 
ment for the degradation it had inflicted. The whole 
series of methodism, like an inverted cone, is based 
upon a single point — the ecclesiastic is every thing, 
and the people nothing; the machinery is all work- 
ing above, grinding them to powder. According to 
Mr. Wesley's account, as stated by this writer, 
" the wheels regularly stand thus : first the assis- 
tant or superintendent, next the local preachers, 
then the stewards, the leaders, and the people." 
The wheels however could not be expected to 
" stand " long in this position, without being in 
danger of standing still; an accidental contact with 
some in the factory, producing serious mischief, 
would bring on a regular inquest, and a deodand 
would be demanded. Mr. Beecham indeed acknow- 



ledges that the machinery did not work so well as 
could have been wished, and that it needed some 
alteration or repair ; and soon after the decease of 
Mr. Wesley load complaints were heard among the 
people, whose remonstrances did not fail to agitate 
the whole connection. The conference was at 
length induced to make some concessions in 1795, 
and also in 97, which, though they did not amount 
to a full surrender of the rights claimed by the peo- 
ple, proved an alleviation of their bondage. 

In examining these concessions Mr. Beecham is 
anxious the people should know what obligations 
they are under to their spiritual rulers, and how 
large the boon their generosity has conferred ; he 
never dreams that any encroachment was or could 
at any time be made on their rights and privileges, 
by those who had seated themselves on the throne 
of methodism ; every concession is perfectly free 
and gratuitous. A change was however introduced 
into the general discipline, which in some measure 
reduced its exorbitancy. Instead of the superin- 
tendent minister having the sole power of receiving 
and expelling members on his own authority, he can 
now do neither without consent of a leaders' meet- 
ing; nor can leaders or stewards be henceforth ap- 
pointed or removed, without the concurrence of the 
class leaders. The circuit stewards also are al- 
lowed a share in the pecuniary transactions of the 
society, and form a part of the various committees 
of finance, from which they were formerly excluded. 
All these are stated as concessions made by "the 
liberality of conference :" yet in the hands of this 
writer the whole is frittered down to a mere permis- 
sion for the local officers and members to be con- 
sulted on certain occasions, without allowing them 
any direct or effective vote on the subject brought 
before them ; a sort of mock committee, whose de- 
termination may be totally disregarded. " They 
form a kind of council to the superintendent," says 
Mr. Beecham, " with whom he converses on the 
state of the society ; but his authority is not shared 
with the local meetings, nor are they constituted 



6 

judges along with him ;" and of course, if they are 
not to "judge," the consultation is a mere farce. 

The party making these concessions had express- 
ly declared, " that there is now no society officer 
among us who can be received, without consent of 
the meeting to which he particularly belongs ; nor 
can any officer be removed, except upon the same 
plan." If there be any meaning in language, this 
must imply, that the admission or exclusion of a 
member in any part of the connection can only be 
effected through the sufFerage of those already in 
fellowship; and as the local preachers are doubtless 
some of the principal officers, they can neither be 
received nor excluded without the concurrence of 
their brethren at a local preachers meeting, " to 
which they particularly belong." Yet in the Leeds 
case local preachers were excluded, not only with- 
out, but against the consent of their brethren ; and 
this is the case which it is attempted by implica- 
tion to justify. Mr. Beecham having put himself 
forward as the special advocate of a party, acting 
in direct violation of the rules and regulations 
adopted in 1797, finds it convenient to deny their 
plain and obvious import, and to put upon them a 
different and opposite construction. With singular 
inconsistency he asserts, " that the rule relating to 
the admission of local preachers, does not extend 
to their expulsion ; " their brethren can receive but 
not retain any of them, if it be the pleasure of other 
persons to put them away. Any thing to secure 
the predominance of the priesthood answers the 
purpose of such a writer, even though it should 
make mere cyphers of the people, and reduce the 
regulations themselves to sheer nonsense. If the 
local preachers, or any other class in society, can 
be dealt with in the way that is pretended, there is 
a total end to all christian fellowship, which if it 
be not voluntary can have no existence. 

Not understanding the rights of conscience him- 
self, nor the worth of civil and religious liberty, 
Mr. Beecham wishes to insinuate that those who 
assailed the power of conference in 1795 and 97, 



were the abettors of the French revolution ; and 
that their disaffection was occasioned by spurious 
notions of equality and independence which pre- 
vailed at that period. He even mixes up these 
persons with the infidels of the age, and the fifth 
monarchy men in the time of Cromwel ; and for the 
mere purpose of shielding the precious ' apostoli- 
cals,' and securing to them in perpetuity the keys 
of St. Peter, he attempts to degrade a numerous 
and respectable portion of the Wesleyan society, 
by a gross misrepresentation of their religious and 
political sentiments. Had the conference viewed 
the conduct and motives of the complainants in the 
same light, or considered them as influenced by se- 
cular ambition and discontent, would they have en- 
tertained their application, or listened to their re- 
monstrance ? Would they in their circular of 1797 
have made " the sacrifices they did of their autho- 
rity, in order to evince a willingness," as they said, 
" to meet their brethren in every thing consistent 
with the existence of methodist discipline, and 
shown a readiness to become their servants for Je- 
sus' sake ?" The reflections of this writer fall alike 
on the conference whom he is anxious to extol, 
and upon the people whom he wishes to traduce. 
There is indeed, throughout the whole of his per- 
formance, such a perpetual din about "the powers 
and prerogatives of conference, the legislative rights 
of conference, the laws and enactments of confer- 
ence, the supreme authority of conference, and con- 
ference being the head of the methodist body the 
church," — that we were perfectly stunned and stu- 
pified with the bell of this dustman, and could only 
make out that he lias no sympathy with the friends 
of popular freedom, and lias little else in view than 
magnifying and extolling the men who sit in Mo- 
ses's chair, and occupy the chief places in the syn- 
agogue, lie troubles not himself about the numer- 
ous secedcrs in the north or in the south, is unaware 
of the growing dissatisfactions in other parts of the 
connection, and of the issue to which things are 
tending ; and if the dominant system be at last 



compelled to give way, the event will be accelerated 
by such advocates as Mr. Beecham, who instead of 
providing a remedy, or suggesting any healing mea- 
sures, encreases the danger tenfold, by stoutly de- 
nying the existence of disease, and maintaining 
that things are all as they ought to be. This is the 
way that all the ultras go on, both in church and 
state, till they and their corruptions are swept away 
by the torrent of public opinion. 

Mr. Beecham has been careful to reiterate the 
power and authority of christian pastors, and their 
right to rule the church, but has studiously avoided 
all definition of the terms, except that they are not 
to rule " imperiously or tyrannically," which vague- 
ly concedes any degree of authority that priestly 
arrogance might choose to assume. Neither Laud 
nor Bonner thought they were acting tyrannically, 
but according to the power that God had given them, 
in sending heretics to the dungeon and the stake ; 
and a methodist minister, with his associates, may 
think the same, in excluding hundreds and thou- 
sands from communion for the sake of an organ, 
and displaying their own authority ; but both God 
and the people will be their judge. 

This gentleman has dwelt so much among epis- 
copal and popish writers, and imbibed such notions 
of high-church power and influence, that he has 
shown himself totally incapable of understanding 
this part of his subject. No one denies that the 
scriptures teach submission to pastoral authority, 
or that we are to ' obey those who have the rule 
over us ; ' but it is necessary to ascertain the nature 
and extent of that obedience, before it can become 
a reasonable service, or form any part of the will 
of God. If this submission is to be a religious and 
not a servile submission, it must be a submission to 
divine and not to human authority ; and before it 
can be such the people must be convinced that it 
is according to the scriptures, which involves the 
right of enquiry, both as to the import and obliga- 
tion of pastoral injunctions. Take away the right 
of judging, and all conviction ceases, and with it 



all rational obedience. Christians are bound to obey 
nothing but the truth, nothing but this can bind the 
conscience. Authority to rule and govern in the 
church is ministerial only, not legislative, and the 
power of a pastor lies in his doctrine and example. 
Christ himself is the only lawgiver of the church ; 
all his laws are recorded in the scriptures, none be- 
sides can have any force, or possess any legitimate 
authority. Should a conference or a synod pretend 
to make laws where he has made none, fidelity to 
him requires they should be rejected. ' Teaching 
for doctrine the commandments of men, makes void 
the law,' and destroys the very nature of christian 
obedience. Yet by a strange perversion this writer 
maintains that submission to pastoral authority, to 
be sincere, must be implicit ; and that if it arises 
from a conviction that what is commanded is ac- 
cording to the will of God, it is an obedience to 
divine rather than to pastoral authority. Before 
however he can consistently demand this kind ol 
subjection, he must establish his claim to infallibi- 
lity ; the man who confesses himself liable to err, 
and at the same time requires implicit submission 
to his authority, betrays at once his ignorance ot 
human nature, and his love of domination. 

So much vaunting about the power of the priest- 
hood, and the right to implicit obedience, naturally 
creates suspicion that something is rotten in the 
present state of methodism, and suggests the neces- 
sity of farther enquiry. Nothing like these high 
pretensions is to be found in any part of the new 
testament. The great and good Shepherd was 
among his disciples 'as one that serveth ;' being 
meek and lowly in heart he did not break the bruis- 
ed reed, nor quench the smoking flax ; and lie hath 
left us an example that we should follow his steps. 
The great apostle of the gentiles was among his 
brethren as a nurse that clicrisheth her children, 
willing to impart not the gospel of God only, but 
his own soul also, because they were dear unto him. 
And would he have made a schism among them for 
the sake of a psaltery or a harp ; he who declared 

ij 2 



10 

that if meat made his brother to offend, he would 
eat no flesh while the world standeth ? Do we hear 
the same apostle beseeching and persuading his 
brethren by the meekness and gentleness of Christ 
to receive his counsel : and shall we listen to the 
dogmatising of a methodist preacher on the subject 
of pains and penalties, in case his authority should 
be disregarded ? Are his dictates so infallible that 
the people have no right to examine them, or to 
judge of his pretensions, in order to ascertain the 
extent of their obligations ? How strange it is he 
does not perceive the difference between the claims 
of inspired men, and those of ordinary teachers. 
The authority of the former being peculiar, could 
not descend to others, but ceased with the age oi 
inspiration. To have rejected the authority of the 
apostles, would have been an abandonment of Chris- 
tianity itself; but the authority of an uninspired 
teacher cannot surely be placed on the same foot- 
ing. Yet we find that the exercise of power, even 
on the part of these highly-gifted men, was marked 
with the utmost tenderness and forbearance, very 
unlike to that of their pretended successors. It 
seemed good ' to the Holy Ghost,' and equally so 
to them, that no other burden should be laid on the 
churches than such as arose from 'necessary things ;' 
on points not obviously within the design of the 
gospel, or not essential to Christianity, they were 
content to give their counsel and advice, but they 
forbore to command. Far from being ' lords over 
God's heritage,' they pleased all men to their edifi- 
cation, and became all things to all men that they 
might gain some. 

Our author professes to be acquainted with the 
English constitution, and deals in quotations from 
Blackstone's commentaries, for the purpose of assi- 
milating certain parts of methodist discipline with 
civil law, and likening the conference to the high 
court of parliament ! But where did he learn the 
doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance, of 
passive obedience and nonresistance it may be to a 
preacher who neither understands the principles of 



11 

civil or religious liberty, nor the nature and consti- 
tution of a christian church ; and who instead of 
recognising that lovely equality which Christ has 
established among his followers, is all intent on ex- 
alting the priesthood, and sinking the importance of 
the people. When we hear a pope thundering from 
the Vatican, and an archbishop threatening to " co- 
erce " the subjects of his diocese, with a bundle of 
canon law in his pocket and the sword of the civil 
magistrate by his side, it is easy to comprehend 
their meaning ; but for a Wesleyan minister, with 
the minutes of conference in his hand, to talk of 
being " armed with spiritual authority to coerce 
those into submission whom he is sent to teach," 
presents a spectacle of singular novelty. We may 
truly wonder in what school he has studied " the 
genius of Christ's kingdom," and from what gospel 
he has derived his notions of coercion. 

In the primitive church nothing was to be done 
' by constraint, but willingly ; ' the idea of coercion 
was never entertained till it was wanted to support 
an antichristian church, where almost every thin:; 
is done by compulsion, and scarcely any thing left 
to the choii c of a ready mind. Schemes for cora- 
pelling men to become religious are of a much later 
discovery, a method of advancing the kingdom of 
Christ which was not within the reach of apostolic 
wisdom. A christian church is a congregation of 
faithful men ; all its fellowship arises from a same- 
ness of faith, a sameness of experience and of hope ; 
a holy brotherhood for whom Christ died, knowing 
nothing at all of coercion ; it is founded on the 
opposite principle, that of voluntary compact and 
mutual affection, giving themselves first to the Lord, 
and then to one another for his sake. According 
to the doctrine laid down by Mr. Beechain, that all 
rule and authority in the church is placed in the 
hands of the pastor, and not in the people, it would 
come to pass that where there is no pastor, there 
can be no church, no power to execute the com- 
mands of Christ. If half a score persons in a vil- 
lage should happen to be converted by reading the 



12 

scriptures, or some religious tracts accidently dis- 
tributed among them, and they should enter into 
fellowship together, to walk in all the command- 
ments and ordinances of the Lord blameless ; they 
could neither receive nor exclude members from 
communion, nor execute any part of christian dis- 
cipline. Taking the scriptures for their guide, they 
edify one another in love ; and walking in the fear 
of God and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, they 
are multiplied ; yet having no ruling priest among 
them, all they do is uncanonical, and they must be 
set down for a parcel of schismatics ! 

This zealous advocate of ecclesiastical dominion 
having shown, as he conceives, that the govern- 
ment of the church is wholly vested in the pastor, 
proceeds to enquire into the distinguishing charac- 
teristic of such an officer ; and finds it not to con- 
sist, eminently, in any mental or moral endowment, 
but in something extraneous and accidental, some- 
thing in which he is supposed to differ from the 
local preacher. The latter, we are told, engages 
only occasionally, but the pastor is " actually and 
entirely given up to the work;" and of course, if 
he preached five times in a day, as Whitfield 
sometimes did, he would be something more than a 
pastor. Bearing in mind also that the local 
preachers generally follow the ordinary occupations 
of life, they are carefully kept in the back ground to 
give prominence to the pastor, who comes forward 
as a gentleman, " whose sustenance is to be pro- 
vided for him without any care of his own," living 
like a levitical priest on tithes and offerings. This 
is highly ingenious no doubt, but irt point of saga- 
city it is scarcely equal to the decision of a leader 
in a dissenting congregation, well known to the 
writer, who stated it as his grave opinion, that the 
great requisite in a good pastor was a stout pair of 
legs. There was some sense surely in this, the 
pious man well considering that the minister would 
be able to perform his itinerant labours with the 
greater ease ; but who would have thought it cha- 
racteristic of a christian pastor, that he must 



13 

necessarily be secluded from secular concerns, and 
live like one of the sons of Aaron or of Levi. That 
those who ' serve the altar should live by the altar/ 
is the language both of reason and revelation ; but 
it is wondrous strange if a claim of this sort can- 
not be forborne, without incurring the forfeiture of 
all pastoral pretensions. When honest John Bun- 
yan was accused by some in his day, of receiving 
a salary as pastor of the church at Bedford, he 
gloried in asserting his independence. " Though 
I be poor, said he, and of no repute in the world, 
as to outward things, yet this grace I have learned, 
by the example of the apostle, to preach the truth, 
and also to work with my hands, both for my own 
living and for those that are with me." And per- 
haps he was as good a pastor after all as Mr. 
Beecham, or any of his associates, though he 
sometimes mended pots and kettles. 

Mr. Beecham is anxious to make it out, that " the 
regular preachers," being supported by the contri- 
butions of the people, " are the only legitimate 
pastors of the methodist flock." In primitive times 
however, none were considered as pastors but those 
who resided with the flock, and had the charge of 
a particular congregation. The pastors were not 
removable from one district to another, like the 
travelling preachers in the V* esleyan connection; 
their work was more stationary, and confined to a 
more limited sphere. They were the elders and 
pastors of the church at Corinth, and Ephesus, at 
Philippi, or elsewhere, distinguished from the apos- 
tlrs and evangelists, who carried the tidings of sal- 
vation to all nations. When in any town or city 
a number of individuals were converted by their 
instrumentality, they were constituted the deposi- 
taries of the truth received, and charged with its 
dissemination in their immediate neighbourhood, 
while the itinerants passed into other regions to 
preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. The first 
converts in any place, being the constituents of a 
new society, would in a little time become its pres- 
bytery, out of whom one would naturally be select- 



14 

ed as the president or pastor of the flock, the rest 
acting in, concert as elders or deacons. In this 
view, which is supported by the history of the Acts 
and the earliest records of the church, the resident 
class leaders and local preachers in the Wesleyan 
societies form the real presbytery ; and if any one 
of these were nominated by their brethren to the 
general oversight of the flock, he would properly be 
their pastor, rather than the travelling preacher 
who is performing the work of an evangelist. 

Our author however has other objections to the 
leaders and local preachers being considered as 
pastors of the flock, besides those already men- 
tioned ; and these form so sickening a piece of 
affectation as is seldom to be met with. He at- 
tempts to distinguish between the different degrees 
and orders of teaching, to show what is canonical 
and what is not, always taking it for granted that 
" the regular preacher " is a wiser man than all the 
rest. " The teaching of the class leader is of the 
humbler order, confined to the subject of christian 
experience," which by the bye requires more wisdom 
and prudence than many other kinds of teaching. 
" The local preacher engages only occasionally, in 
some of the smaller chapels, and does not formally 
address the whole society :" if he did, and preached 
oftener, there would be danger of mistaking him 
for a pastor ! " The business of the circuit preacher 
is to teach both the leader and the local preacher," 
that is to say, if he be able. He also engages, for- 
sooth, " in the highest kind of teaching, in all the 
senses in which a minister is required to teach ; 
and in all those senses he teaches the whole flock, 
and its subordinate teachers too! " Well, well, sir, 
this is quite enough, quite as much as modesty will 
bear : nobody after this will presume to question 
your being a teacher in the fullest and highest sense, 
understanding all mysteries and all knowledge ! 
But this is not all : the secret is not yet out, why 
the leaders and other localists are not to be consi- 
dered as eligible to the pastoral office, and why 
they are not to have any share in managing the 



15 

concerns of the society. Their teaching and 
preaching only occasionally, and in smaller assem- 
blies, implies no necessary inferiority either in 
talents or piety : no, this is not the reason, though 
so pompously announced. The truth is, you are 
afraid of their numbers, their talents and their in- 
fluence : they would have a preponderance in the 
connection, and might possibly upset all the legiti- 
mates. This is the secret, and you have inadver- 
tently let it out in page 104. " What they ask for, 
you say, in the system which they recommend, is 
in fact, that the local preachers and the class leaders 
shall be recognised as co-pastors, along with the 
regular preachers, and thus have an equal share, or 
rather the whole, (for they could ever carry 
their point by a majority) of the government 
of the society." There it is, and this is the clue to 
all that you have written about pastoral authority, 
to all that you have said and sung about the glo- 
rious ascendency and supreme dominion of confer- 
ence ; though it is not true that either the leaders 
or local preachers have recommended any new 
system of methodism, or claimed for themselves 
any participation in the pastoral office. 

All that these comphunants have ever demanded 
is, that they should be treated as members of the 
church, having a voice in all that concerns its wel- 
fare ; that they should not be put down as mere 
ciphers, forming a mock council to give advice 
which the minister is at liberty to reject; that they 
shall not be trampled upon by a special district 
meeting, or any other self-constituted authority, 
pretending a right to enter their local communities, 
and reverse all the resolutions previously adopted. 
The privilege they claim is no other than was fully 
admitted by the conference of 97, no other than is 
guaranteed by the charter of Christianity, by the 
practice of primitive times, and by the nature and 
fitness of things ; and it is now too late to think of 
uprooting a principle so fundamental to all volun- 
tary compact in civilised society. Mr. Beecham 
does not undertake to investigate this right, he is 



16 

afraid to look at it, and afraid to meet the " South 
London Address ;" he therefore contents himself 
with affirming, that God has placed the government 
of the church in the hands of its pastors, and that 
methodism, by transferring the whole to conference, 
has done the same ; thinking no doubt it is a fine 
thing for " the clergy " to legislate for " the laity," 
and at the same time to decide on their own pre- 
tensions. 

Before he could ascend this climax however, it 
was necessary to secure an exclusive title to the 
clerical character, to secularise the local preachers, 
and put on his robes to show that he was not one 
of them. The itinerants therefore are placed in 
the calendar as " regular preachers," in episcopal 
language, " the regular clergy ;" the local preachers 
are of an inferior order, and called " lay preachers," 
a distinction which marks several parts of this 
high-church performance. Yet the author might 
have known that the reverend founder of methodism 
would have allowed of no such difference ; being 
himself a member of the national church, he con- 
sidered all as lay preachers who had not been 
episcopally ordained ; this aspirant for clerical 
honours must therefore be numbered with the rest. 
And why cannot a Wesleyan preacher be content 
with his simple designation ; why must he affect 
the stile and significance of a throne-begirt estab- 
lishment, and look down upon his humbler brethren 
as men of an inferior order. He dreads " the sin 
of democracy," and thinks that neither church nor 
state can be safe wihout a politico-ecclesiastical 
hierarchy, if so be that he may but himself be one 
of the privileged order. Primitive Christianity 
needed no such expedient; and it was not until 
the suffrages of the people were dispensed with, to 
make way for the exercise of pastoral authority, 
that popery gained any footing in the church. 

As this writer has neither time nor inclination to 
make himself acquainted with the history of the 
primitive church, which is the best comment on its 
constitution and discipline, we will furnish for his 



17 

edification a brief extract, from an author of ac- 
knowledged celebrity, hoping it may induce him 
to retract the servile principles he has endeavoured 
to palm upon the unsuspecting reader for the verities 
of methodism. " That the people had in the first 
ages," says the Rev. Robert Hall, in one of his 
Reviews, " a large share in ecclesiastical proceed- 
ings, and that their officers were chosen by them- 
selves, is incontrovertibly evident, as well from 
scripture, as from the authentic monuments of 
antiquity. The epistles of St. Cyprian, to go no 
farther, are as full in proof of this point, as if they 
had been written on purpose to establish it. The 
transfer of power, first from the people to their 
ministers, and afterwards from them to the bishop 
of Rome, was a gradual work, not fully accom- 
plished till many centuries had elapsed from the 
christian era. Until the conversion of Constantine, 
the christian church was a spiritual republic, sub- 
sisting in the midst of the Roman empire, on which 
it was completely independent ; and its most mo- 
mentous afiiirs were directed by popular suffrage." 
Lord King also, in his Enquiry into the Consti- 
tution and Discipline of the Primitive Church, has 
shown that during the first three centuries, nothing 
\\as transacted without the concurrence of the 
people. If a bishop or pastor died, they all met 
together in one place to choose a successor, and 
this was the custom throughout all the churches. 
Thus it is said by Euscbius, bk. vi. ch. 38, Sabinus 
was chosen bishop of Emerita "by the suffrage of 
all the brethren." Alexander was chosen bishop 
of Jerusalem, " by the members of the church." 
Fabianus was elected bishop of Rome, and after 
him Cornelius, "by the suffrage of the presbytery 
and the people." Cyprian of Carthage acknow- 
ledged that he was chosen " by favour of the peo- 
ple;" and from the time said he " that I was made 
their bishop, I determined to do nothing without 
the consent of my people." In the year 258 it was 
agreed by a large assembly met on the occasion, 
that to make an ordination "just and lawful, it 



18 

must be approved by the suffrage and judgment of 
all the people." And in this, says lord King, " they 
followed the example of the apostles and apostolic 
men, who ordained none but with the approbation 
of the whole church." And if even a messenger 
was to be sent to a distant church, all the people 
met together to make the appointment. Enquiry, 
ch. ii. 

The admission and exclusion of members, and 
the general discipline of the church, were all con- 
ducted on the same principle. Clement of Rome, 
as early as the year 70, calls the censures of the 
church " the things commanded by the multitude." 
And at Carthage, when mention is made of two 
members that had offended, Cyprian says "they 
were to be tried before the whole people, and that 
none are to be restored to fellowship without their 
knowledge and consent." Not only were the pas- 
tors and teachers elected by the people, but they 
also deposed such as were disapproved, and ap- 
pointed others in their stead. When two Spanish 
bishops were excluded by the people for their 
apostasy, a synod approved and confirmed their 
conduct, assuring them that " they had not acted 
irregularly in what they had done ; since as the 
people had the power of choosing worthy bishops, 
so also of refusing those that are unworthy." In a 
time of severe persecution, while Cyprian was in 
exile, and several members of the church at Car- 
thage had relapsed, but wished afterwards to be 
restored, he entreated the presbyters acting in his 
absence, and whom he stiled " the pastors of the 
flock," to receive them ; and in a letter on this 
occasion, addressed to Cornelius bishop of Rome, 
he writes as follows. " Oh, my dear brother, if you 
could have been present when those men returned 
from their schism, you would have wondered at 
the pains I took to persuade our brethren to be 
patient, and laying aside their indignation would 
consent to the healing and receiving those that are 
sick ; for I can scarcely persuade, or extort a grant 
from my people, that such should be restored to 



19 

communion." And in another place he acknow- 
ledges, that " whoever was excommunicated, it was 
by the divine suffrage of the people." Cyp. Ep. 
;V>, 68. 

That the people have a right to be consulted in 
all the transactions of a christian society, and that 
nothing should be done without their consent, is 
not only fully recognised in the early history of the 
church, but abundantly confirmed by apostolic pre- 
cept and example. All the canonical epistles are 
addressed to the churches, including their pastors, 
but to the churches primarily, and to the pastors 
only consequentially ; the directions respecting 
discipline and order are therefore given more im- 
mediately to them, and to their officers inclusively, 
which shows that the whole church is charged with 
the execution of discipline, and not an official part 
of it in contradistinction from the rest. Paul, in 
his letter to the church at Rome, addresses the 
people thus : ' Him that is weak in the faith receive 
ye — Receive ye one another as Christ also received 
us — Receive ye Phebe in the Lord as becometh 
saints' Receiving to communion, and excluding 
from fellowship, must be the joint act of the whole 
society. Hence Paul, in his epistles to the church 
at Corinth, exhorts them, ' When ye are gathered 
together, deliver such a one to Satan — Put away 
from among yuurseLves that wicked person.' And 
when the chinch are directed to restore to their 
fellowship the excluded party on repentance, they 
are to ' comfort him and confirm their love towards 
him ;' adding, ' to whom ye forgive any thing, I 
forgive also.' 

Air. lieecham indeed alleges as a set off, that 
the admonitions addressed to the 'angels' of the 
seven churches in Asia, are a proof that the govern- 
ment was confined to the pastors. Nothing how- 
ever can be more shallow than this. The work of 
reformation and amendment required in those 
churches, concerned the people themselves primarily, 
and the pastors as forming a part of their commu- 
nity, and being alike involved in the censures and 



20 

commendations. At the head of all these epistles, 
the sacred writer places this inscription : ' John to 
the seven churches which are in Asia ;' and at the 
end of each is added, ' He that hath an ear, let him 
hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.' The 
epistles themselves therefore are addressed to the 
churches, as indeed their contents evidently show, 
and to the ministers only as their representatives, 
and holding an official situation among them. 
Much of the defection complained of was probably 
owing to their example, and it was proper therefore 
that in the first instance they should receive the 
admonition. We read of no one in the scriptures 
who ' loved to have the preeminence,' except it be 
Diotrephes, who thought he had a right to 'cast 
men out of the church ' on his own authority. 

Not knowing how to get entirely rid of the suf- 
frages of the people, in order to establish an eccle- 
siastical despotism in the church, Mr. Beecham is 
for compromising the matter ; and as he cannot al- 
low the members in communion to have any direct 
influence in the proceedings of the society, he is for 
admitting them in the capacity of spectators, wit- 
nessing and beholding the wisdom and authority of 
their rulers. For this purpose he brings down the 
primitive church to the level of a methodist society, 
makes it nothing but a mock committee, and throws 
in the character of inspired teachers with that of 
modern pastors, to render the comparison complete. 
" The ministers of the primitive church," he tells 
us, " consulted the wiser and more experienced part 
of their charge, who assisted them, in various ways, 
in the important work ; and they transacted some 
church matters in the face of the church, whose 
presence was thus a check on them against any 
temptation to abuse their authority and act impro- 
perly! "p. 99. What a monstrosity is this ! Who 
would expect any thing like truth or correctness from 
such a writer. If the Wesley an preachers, placed 
on the pinnacle of power, needed a " check " to pre- 
vent the abuse of their authority, and to be awed 
by the presence of the people from acting impro- 



21 

perly, surely he might have spared the holy apostles 
this base reflection, and not have placed them under 
the surveillance of a committee to keep them honest. 
The love of power, and the idolising of a system 
must have been inveterate, before it could come to 
this, and of such a one there can be no hope. In- 
stead therefore of noticing all the absurdities which 
abound in the Essay on Wesleyan Methodism, we 
shall put an end to these remarks, recommending to 
the notice of Mr. Beecham the unanswerable Reply 
to k Mr. Watson's Address, containing a Defence of 
Wesleyan Methodism, against the modern Assump- 
tions of Ministerial Power — a cheap edition of which 
has just been printed for general circulation. 

Whether methodism was originally founded on 
the principles stated in the preseding paragraphs, 
or whether it distinctly recognised any of theiu or 
not, it is now become necessary to bring them more 
prominently to view, seeing there has been a wider 
and still wider departure from the practice of the 
primitive church, and an arrogant assumption of 
power by the advocates of the modern system, 
which goes at once to annihilate the rights of the 
people. The venerable Founder of methodism de- 
signed no doubt to blend, as far as possible, the 
advantages presented by the various existing forms 
of church government, without taking any of them 
for his model ; and the spirit of methodism is best 
preserved by following this example. A pertinacity 
for ancient rites and forms, of merely human origin, 
is one of the worst of human prejudices, and too 
often obstructs the career of improvement. Man's 
work is never perfect, all our institutions are under- 
going a change, and wisdom requires their encreas- 
ing adaptation to the purposes they were intended 
to accomplish. Methodism has already undergone 
various modifications, and still demands a closer 
revision ; it is not what it has been, nor what it 
ought to be, and it were folly to deny it. Its ex- 
cellency lies not in its being either primitive or 
modern, but in its conformity to the scriptures. 



and l>e no longer entangled with this yoke of bond- 
age.. Let them resume their rights and privileges, 
and not be pensioners on a body which knows no- 
thing of justice or moderation. In order to effect 
a most important reformation, little more seems 
necessary in the first instance, than to secure the 
complete independance of the local meetings in all 
local affairs ; that is of the Quarterly Meetings in 
Circuit affairs, of the Leaders' Meetings in Society 
affairs, and of the Local Preachers' Meetings in the 
ministerial department and spiritual administration 
of the Circuit. The Itinerancy must of course be 
left with the Conference. But their legislative pow- 
er should either be placed under the restraint of a 
lower house of assembly, consisting of Laymen 
exclusively, whose approval or rejection should be 
absolutely required ; or what were infinitely better, 
the Conference should have power only to recom- 
mend a regulation, and leave it to be adopted or 
rejected by the Quarterly Meetings, who alone 
should have power to enforce it. Affairs of gene- 
ral interest to the Connection, as the Missions, &c. 
might be managed by mixt Committees of laymen 
and preachers, but the lay members should inva- 
riably be chosen by the people, and the greatest 
care taken that the clerical interest do not pre- 
ponderate in these Committees. An assembly of 
brethren, ardently attached to each other, and su- 
premely devoted to the Lord, will be well able to 
conduct the concerns entrusted to their care, and 
will form a holy family in which peace and love 
may constantly prevail. 



J. M. Morris, Printer, Bungay.